A recent survey carried out by Stratasys Direct Manufacturing provides an insight into the future of additive manufacturing and how businesses are taking steps to implement the technology for the production of end-use parts.
Results were taken from 700 respondents including engineers, designers, executives and project managers, who are either current users of AM or considering using it within their company in the next three years and signal a positive future for metals and service providers.
The promise of more complex design capabilities was identified by 79% of respondents as the top benefit of AM overall whilst access to advanced equipment via outsourcing was deemed most important by 73%. Currently the biggest challenge is the cost of equipment and 32% of current AM users believe their company is not leveraging the full potential of AM. However 40% of users say they are now doing more AM in-house than they used to outsource.
Top challenges in using AM.
Despite concerns about adoption, the survey shows that businesses are taking measures to ensure they are prepared for transferring their traditional manufacturing processes to AM. 40% said they are taking the time to train designers and engineers specifically for AM and they’re also striking up partnerships with AM service providers. The role of the service provider is set to be a key enabler in the growth of AM as more businesses intend to outsource in order to benefit from high-end advanced technologies.
Over a third of respondents said they are investing in development and research into AM whilst just 19% said they are investing in people with previous AM experience.
Is outsourcing the way forward?
The way businesses intend to use AM in the future differs across various industries. 40% of current users say they have already started to rethink the way they design products in order to leverage the full benefit of AM. 36% of Consumer and Energy industries are most likely to increase the growth of outsourced AM whereas 73% of Aerospace and Medical industries are most likely to grow their in-house AM capabilities. This makes sense as we see more examples of medical and dental users applying in-house additive manufacturing technology to create
patient-specific solutions and models in rapid time.
The results also provide an indication of how businesses hope to use AM with a major focus on real life applications. The manufacture of end-use parts is set to grow by 38% in the next three years whilst concept models and prototyping will grow by just 1%. These results signal a shift in how businesses are looking at using AM for production capabilities rather than proof of concept. The demand for development in metals is also highlighted and echoes how businesses hope to see end-use production grow with more sophisticated materials.
Joe Allison, CEO of Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, commented: “One of the questions about the 3D printing industry that I hear often in the press and within the investor community is: When will end-use part production go beyond the early adopters and become “mainstream”? No survey can tell us whether we’ve reached the inflection point; only time will tell. But make no mistake: 3D printing is here and now. We’re building real production parts in every field you can think of, across a wide range of applications today. For any manufacturers out there that haven’t started using 3D printing, they better start looking at it now, or they’ll fall behind and it will be difficult to catch up.”